The man behind the film “Other Rituals, Parents’ Stories and Meaning Making,” Todd Hochberg, joined Dr. Heidi Horsley at the Open to Hope Foundation’s annual conference to discuss the importance of creating rituals as part of the grieving process. In the film, Hochberg interviews many of the families he’s worked with including many parents whose children have passed away. By helping families through the process with pictures, Hochberg describes in the film how such processes optimize healing and shine a lantern in an otherwise dark period of time.

One of Hochberg’s innovative approaches is offering photography services soon after a child has died, “When families are open to it, not every family is,” he explains. Some cultures and religions have prescribed bereavement rituals, particularly for children, while other parents design their own processes. “Tattoos are very popular now with young adults,” he says—particularly with men. Women and mothers tend to be more vocally expressive, while men can have a tendency to hold back and express grief in other ways.

The Ritual Process

Intuitive vs. instrumental grieving is something Hochberg knows well, and he works with each type of griever on their own level of preference. He recalls one father whose daughter died with a monkey doll, and the father was determined to keeping the doll close as a remembrance. Another parent, a mother, created a quilt with a special square for her daughter who passed as well as for her other children—this quilt was used in the burial ceremony.

As a documentary maker, Hochberg is committed to showcasing the real ritual making he’s experienced. You can find the film at Hochberg’s website along with a number of other resources and tools to help with the grieving process, ritual creation and bereavement strategies.



Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is a licensed psychologist, social worker, and bereaved sibling. She co-hosts the award-winning weekly cable television show and podcast, Open to Hope. Dr. Heidi is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and an award-winning author, who has co-authored eight books, and serves on the United Nations Global Mental Health Task Force. She also serves on the Advisory Boards for the Tragedy Assistance Program, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and Peace of Mind Afghanistan. She served on the National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, and for 10 yrs. worked on a Columbia University research study looking at traumatic loss over time in families who lost a firefighter in the World Trade Center.

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